Thousands of dollars of attorney fees were questioned by City Councilor Bob West during a Kamiah City Council meeting last week. He felt the expense was higher than anticipated.
The city received a bill for $3,145 for legal work by city attorney Alison Brandt.
West asked how she arrived at 4.6 hours two different times for preparation to come and sit at a city council meeting.
Brandt said she charges the city for her time when she drives to and from meetings, sits at meetings and preparation for meetings. She said it is usually about three hours for a meeting and an hour of prep beforehand.
Councilor Hibbs asked if her bill had increased since she started working with the city.
Brandt said she charged $1,250 for criminal and $1,000 for civil and when she did both that rate was bumped up to $3,000. She said the contract was changed and prosecution was given to the county prosecutor. That arrangement was part of the deal when the council elected to contract with Lewis County for policing services. Brandt’s bill was reduced to $1,500 for 15 hours in a month. Anything above those hours is billed at her regular rate of $175.
Councilor Paul Schlader thought that the bill should have decreased after matters calmed down within the city.
Brandt said it did decrease the previous month. “It just depends on how much work I do for you,” she said.
Hibbs wondered why the bill was still high when she does not prosecute cases anymore.
Brandt said she was finishing up some cases that were included in the bill. She said Prosecutor Zachary Pall would not take on any cases that she had already started.
West asked why it took so much time for her to produce an MOU involving the ambulance.
Brandt said she didn’t know what she was doing and had to research it.
West questioned if the city was paying her to learn.
“Yes, you are,” she replied.
“That’s really a shame,” he replied.
“That’s what attorneys do,” she said. “If they were going to do research on a case to make sure they were doing it correctly for their client.”
West did not feel comfortable paying the attorney for all the time she was spending learning how to do something when he thought that was already factored into the contract.
“Well it’s not actually learning. I’m going through and making sure I’m doing it correctly and I do have to learn how to do it from the ambulance perspective so I take the information I’ve done from previous MOUs, I’ve talked to the Clearwater County Ambulance, I’ve talked a little bit with Mike [Boyer] about it, I’ve prepared the document,” she said. “If you want to get an attorney who just does MOUs, good luck. I mean I think it’s kind of a general thing.”
Brandt felt any other attorney would do the same thing she does. “I’m not going to charge you any more, but I am going to charge you for the work I do. I consider that attorney work,” she added.
West said he’s seen a lot of MOUs written and they didn’t require that many hours and expense.
“Maybe you want to get that attorney, Bob,” she replied.
“I’m just questioning it,” he said.
“And I’m just telling you,” she offered.
Schlader moved to pay the bills and West seconded it. Motion passed.
In other business
A brief presentation from Workman’s Comp representatives was given.
The city continued to tweak its park ordinance. One change involves amending it to be open from sunrise to sunset.
A new application system will be instituted involving permits for use of the stage area with electrical and for the barbecue pits.
“We decided that overnight people stay is not beneficial and it causes more problems than we need,” said Mayor Betty Heater. With specific rules the city can better enforce its code. “It should hopefully help with nighttime stuff that shouldn’t be going on.”
West asked if the barbecue pit was always under a permit system.
Stanton said the park has always been open under a first come first served approach unless it had been reserved by a group.
West said the way the proposed ordinance reads is that no one can use the pits without a permit.
Stanton said a lot of people stop in at the park for lunch or a birthday party “and set up in the barbecue area and use it because it’s open to the public and it’s not that they are putting on a big production.” Conversely, graduation parties are reserved months in advance.
“What do we want the permit for,” asked Brandt.
The permit gives them access to the stage area and use of electrical outlets, said Stanton.
Final changes should be proposed and considered at the next meeting.
In a budget workshop, EMS Supervisor Mike Boyer asked to purchase three phones for the ambulances. The council approved going with Inland Cellular.
The purchase of a replacement drill for the ambulance for $350 was approved.
Approximately $19,000 in expenditures for the ambulance was approved, including $10,000 for a radio grant, studded tires for the 2016 and 2019 ambulances, rims for two ambulances, a laptop for training and EMT classes, a full size mannequin for practice, and cell phones.
Park repairs totaling $5,000 were approved, including a new weed eater and backpack style leaf blower, and repairs to the barbecue pits and amphitheater.
Street repairs totaling $4,300 were approved for a roto drill, tires, metal detector, impact driver, and removal of five trees.
Another $12,300 was approved for sewer repairs, including a UV light replacement, tires for a loader, control air dryer, and composite samplers.
A $50,000 request for equipment at the water plant was approved. The purchases include a pump, auto dialer, meters, and spare chemical pump.